Assembly Constitutional Amendment 11 was introduced Wednesday in the California Legislature to enact significant tax increases to fund universal single-payer health care coverage in California, the Globe reported.
Thursday, Assembly Bill 1400, the “Guaranteed Health Care for All” state-run healthcare bill, which has been kicking around the Assembly for several years now, was heard in the Assembly Rules Committee, but not without some strong debate and some would say, rule breaking, or at least blurred lines enough to be highly dubious.
Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo), the Vice Chairman of the Assembly Rules Committee, strongly objected to passing AB 1400 out of Rules for several reasons, but primarily because the “Guaranteed Health Care for All” bill still has no explanation for how it will be funded.
“We’ve got a state that can’t issue drivers licenses effectively through the DMV, and we’ve got a state that can’t issue unemployment checks properly through the EDD, but we’re going to make all of that a state agency and it’s going to control every aspect of your health care,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said for the 5+ years he has been on the Assembly Rules Committee, “all bills without specified funding are held in the Rules Committee and not referred on to policy committees, unless and until how they will pay for themselves” is written into the bill and analyzed by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
“I don’t know why we are diverting from that practice today,” Cunningham said. “This bill, AB 1400, does not tell you how it will pay for what would be the largest state bureaucracy in state history… and what will replace every piece of federal, state and private healthcare systems with something run by 9 people.”
“Nowhere in the bill does it tell you what tax increases or set of tax increases are going to fund this very expensive program.”
Cunningham said the bill should be held and not referred to a policy committee, “as has been our practice of bills on this type that have this infirmity – for 5+ years.”
Cunningham explained that a bill of this size and magnitude, which Committee Chairman Ken Cooley (D-Sacramento) was recommending as a single referral to the Health Committee only, should be double-referred to the Revenue and Taxation Committee, at a minimum, as well as referred to the Business and Professions Committee “since it would put an enormous number of people out of work, or put them to work in a very different manner than they work today.”
Cunningham added: “There is no way you pay for a bureaucracy that this bill purports to create, without significant changes in the way the state collects revenue from its citizens. It’s impossible, and we all know that.”
“The bill will upend the state’s revenue and taxation,” he said. “There are Proposition 98 implications for K-12 funding, and Proposition 13 implications. These are big changes and should be vetted by all of the policy committees that we have established in this body to that policy subject matter.”
“Also, there are no estimates on what it is going to cost. This body has not conducted that.”
Cunningham called for the bill to be analyzed by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, “who are very well-suited to do an analysis, objectively and independently, and come up with numbers that we can all trust.”
Rules Committee Chairman Cooley gave no real explanation for why he wanted to single-refer the bill to the Health Committee without clear funding mechanisms and cost estimates, making it clear that this was a done-deal before the hearing.
That they substituted four quarantined committee members with last-minute alternates, one of which was Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa), Chairman of the Assembly Health Committee, also made it look dubious. Wood even Tweeted out AB 1400’s passage, and an already-prepared press statement even before leaving the hearing room:
#AB1400 has just been referred to Asm Health Committee next week and I am voting to move it forward. Single payer cannot solve all our problems, but it can be a catalyst for change. Here's my take: https://t.co/9oZITEW7mV
— Jim Wood (@JimWoodAD2) January 6, 2022
#AB1400 has just been referred to Asm Health Committee next week and I am voting to move it forward. Single payer cannot solve all our problems, but it can be a catalyst for change. Here’s my take: bit.ly/3t3Fqnq
Assemblyman Wood’s “take” includes this lightening-speed timeline for passage:
“AB 1400 will be heard in the Assembly Health Committee on January 11, along with several other bills. In order to move forward, AB 1400 must pass its policy committee by January 14 and pass the Assembly by January 31– deadlines for Assembly bills introduced in 2021.”
“This is one of the absolutely worst pieces of legislation I’ve seen since being elected to office,” Assemblyman Health Flora (R-Ripon) told the Globe after the hearing. Flora is also on the Assembly Rules Committee.
“To change the entire health care system for a $162 billion fee, that means we are going to charge every taxpaying Californian making over $49,000,” he said. “ACA 11 is the funding source to AB 1400. When they realize they don’t have enough money to pay for this, they can raise taxes on everyone on a simple majority vote. They wrote that right into the bill. But anything fiscal has to be a 2/3 majority vote.”
Flora said they don’t want the Legislative Analyst’s Office’s numbers. They don’t want to know the true cost.
“I’m super disappointed in Ken Cooley – he absolutely missed the boat on this, at the very least.”
Flora said this same bill was held back by Assembly Speaker Rendon in 2018. The Globe reported on how Rendon killed the single payer bill:
“In 2018, when the Assembly passed a bill to replace the existing health care system with a single payer system operated by the state government, paid for with taxpayer money, it was estimated at a cost of $400 billion. SB 562 by then-Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Los Angeles) was shelved by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, knowing it could not pass, and was half-baked with no real funding mechanism.”
Flora said the same bill was held in Rules Committee back then because there was no funding source.
So why the rush now? We asked Flora who is pushing this.
“The CNA – California Nurses Association,” he said. That is no big surprise. But Flora asked, “What about collectively bargained health plans for state and private labor unions? What about the people making $49,000 – the very people the Democrats claim they care so much about. This is the largest tax increase on them.”
Remember in 2010 when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said about Obamacare, “But we have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
The Globe contacted the California Taxpayers Association and the Cal Chamber for comment. We heard back from the Cal Chamber, and will update the article when CalTax weighs in:
“CalChamber supports a quality and stable health care system for Californians,” said California Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jennifer Barrera. “We urge the Legislature to reject AB 1400 and ACA 11 because these proposals will jeopardize the health care of Californians when they need it most in addition to subjecting taxpayers to roughly $160 billion a year in higher taxes on jobs, income, services and more. We ask that policymakers focus on ways to achieve affordable health care without upending a proven system that currently covers 94% of Californians. Californians need and deserve a stable health care system they can rely on at all times, especially now.”
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